Things I wish someone had told me when I first became a Salesforce admin

I’ve been working on Salesforce configuration projects for a few years now, so in tech time, that’s forever right?

I thought I’d share some of the wisdom I’ve picked up over time:

  1. Just because someone is seemingly more technical or more experienced doesn’t mean they will be able to answer your question. A lot of Salesforce questions are based on product knowledge and if they haven’t worked with that product, then your guess is as good as theirs. Google is your friend. Use that and get answers from blogs, Stack Exchange, the Success Community.
  2. Ask for help from the Success Community. I’ve never been left hanging. Even if someone didn’t know the exact thing I was looking for, they replied, which always made me feel supported.
  3. Get requirements!  Ask why someone needs something. You don’t have to agree to everything that’s asked if it’s not logical for the business or for Salesforce. Write down requirements so that future generations of people at your company understand what you’ve built.
  4. Keep it simple. I can’t stress this one enough! If someone asks for a new feature, implement it in a way that will make sense to people who need to upkeep the system.
  5. Document everything! It’s really fun to just build things, but explain why they’ve been built and make sure people have help docs that help them use it. I often write a document with all my config changes, a technical document, and then a user-facing document.
  6. Get involved in the community. Sometimes being one of the only “Saleforce people” at your company can feel isolating. Get involved in user groups if they’re near you, go to local events or Dreamforce, follow Salesforce-related people on Twitter.
  7. Keep learning! One great thing about Salesforce is there is always more to learn. This can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it’s also exciting. Since things are always changing, you won’t get bored. Learn about a new product! I just learned more about entitlements and that was actually pretty fun.
  8. Trailhead didn’t exist when I started using Salesforce, but I didn’t get into it when it was first launched and I regret it. Use Trailhead all the time. The writing is brilliant and it’s super fun to do interactive challenges. It’s helpful to go through a trail before implementing a related feature.
  9. Take a step back sometimes and look at what you’ve accomplished. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details when you’re working on specific projects, but take the time to celebrate your accomplishments. #treatyoself
  10. It’s okay to say you don’t know something. Users and stakeholders will ask things that you may need to research or get help on. It’s 100% okay to say you need to get more info any you’ll get back to them.

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Two-Factor Authentication is Magical

I did the Trailhead about two-factor authentication and was pretty impressed by it. Soon after, I got a request to actually implement it. The timing was unreal. As educational and fun as Trailhead is, actually implementing something often makes you go a bit deeper into the subject.

Definition of two-factor authentication from Trailhead:

What are the two factors?

  • Something users know, like their password
  • Something users have, such as a mobile device with an authenticator app installed

That second factor of authentication provides an extra layer of security for your org.

As an admin, you can require it every time your users log in. Or you can require it only in some circumstances, such as when users log in from an unrecognised device or try to access a high-risk application. After users successfully verify their identity with both authentication factors, they can access Salesforce and start working.

My requirement was to require users logging in outside the company IP ranges to use two-factor authentication in order to login. This was to provide extra security outside of the office.

While I was researching how to achieve this I found a lot of great resources:

I discovered that I needed to create a specific login flow for people logging in outside the company-approved IP ranges.

I’d never created a login flow and wasn’t quite sure where to start. Before I did too much exploration into creating one from scratch, I found an unmanaged package that includes sample login flows. One of the pre-built flows it included matched my requirement exactly.

In the setup search menu, search for “Login Flows” and then once you find it, click “New.” Find the pre-built flow called “Conditional_Two_Factor.” Specify which user license and profile and that’s it. Super straightforward, right?

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After that I had the users install the Salesforce Autheticator app on their phones and created a help doc for them. I’ll share the help doc in a future post.

2FA Something you know and something you have

Source: Trailhead

Keep Users Engaged with a Salesforce Champions Programme

I’m the champion of the champions at my current job, and it’s a pretty great gig. I setup the Salesforce Champions Programme with a few goals in mind:

  1. To ensure champions actively help resolve issues.
  2. To increase overall user satisfaction.
  3. To have the champions help train users with a “train the trainer” approach.

Those sounds pretty cool, but how did I actually achieve them?

I select champions based on feedback from their manager and if they seem interested in how Salesforce works. If they’ve been asking lots of questions and giving our team feedback, they’ll be a good fit for the programme. They also typically aren’t managers.

I setup a private Chatter group for the Champions to get updates from me about new features and functionality. I also post in the group if there’s an issue affecting a number of users, to make sure they’re the first to know. Champions use the group to ask questions or suggest training topics.

We have monthly meetings where I share new live and upcoming features, they ask questions and give feedback, and I lead a training based on a topic they’ve chosen. Some of the topics we’ve covered are list views, email templates, mass emailing leads and contacts, reports and dashboards, Chatter, and Content. Recently the champions have been super into Trailhead and we work on a module together on laptops. Some of them have gotten really into it and hit the trails at home after work.

The meetings are a time for me to share my Salesforce enthusiasm with the champions and get them excited. A big part of this is responding to all their feedback and incorporating their suggestions into our ways of working. Recently one of the champions said that she doesn’t always have time to look at Chatter, but that she would like it more if it were more like an instant messenger. I got her setup on Chatter Desktop and now she’s chattering like a pro and we’re going to roll out Chatter Desktop to all users.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. Once a champions, not always a champion. People’s roles change and they might no longer have time to be part of the programme. Check in with champions and let them move on if they’re ready. There’s always new folks who will want to replace them.
  2. Empower the champions and give them the opportunity to shine. One of our champions got really into creating reports and dashboards for his team. I’ve made sure to highlight his achievements to his team and managers and thank him for taking the initiative to go beyond his job role.
  3. Respond to every bit of feedback in a timely way. Make their lives easier in any way you can.
  4. Treat the champions as department delegates. Make sure they’re communicating information to their teams and that you’re hearing everything they tell you.
  5. Communicate and then communicate some more. Make sure they know about any changes in Salesforce well before they happen.
  6. Have the champions help you with testing new features. They’ll learn about the development process and you’ll get their awesome feedback. This will help them when they train their own teams.

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Why You Should get Involved with Salesforce User Groups

Since I’m not at Dreamforce this year, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on going to a couple of London user groups this month. User groups are organised by customers in your local area and people interact both online and in person. I got involved with user groups after going to the Salesforce World Tour this year. I loved meeting other Salesforce professionals in person and I wanted to continue to build community.

Here’s the London User Groups:

Each group has a different focus and some of them require you to ask permission to join the group, but you’ll be added, don’t worry. I’ve been to meetups hosted by the Admin User Group, Women in Tech, and Salesforce Developers.

What you can gain from going to user groups:

  1. You will meet cool people. Yeah, this might seem obvious, but in a big city like London you don’t often meet total strangers that share common interests. People at both events I went to were eager to welcome new people.
  2. You will learn about new Salesforce features and learn about different ways of implementing Salesforce.
  3. You will watch engaging demos.
  4. You will learn about AppExchange apps you haven’t heard of.
  5. You will get free food and drinks.
  6. You will get to take user group selfies.
  7. You will  network and find out about new jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem.
  8. You will meet Salesforce MVPs who may inspire you to get more involved with user groups or speaking at events.
  9. You will find out about other cool events and programmes. Here’s a Diversity Speaking Programme I’m going to try to go to and an event hosted by Computer Weekly to celebrate the Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT that I went to in June.
  10. You will have fun! It’s good to get outside your normal routine and do something different on a week night.

Image from Trailhead

 

 

 

Creating an Internal Salesforce Support Programme

One of the most rewarding things I’ve done at my current job is creating our internal Salesforce Support Programme. We have around 250 users and a 5 person Salesforce team. We needed a way to ensure that people got answers to their questions, while our team can still work on lots of new development simultaneously.

Our company was already using Freshservice for other internal helpdesks, so while I personally would have liked to use Salesforce Cases, we used Freshservice, which has turned out to be a really easy programme to learn. People email our support email, which creates tickets in Freshservice. We can also transfer tickets to other internal helpdesks.

Here’s some best practices I’ve learned in no particular order:

  1. Regardless of whether you communicate them to your internal customers, create some SLAs as bench marks. Ours are that we aim to respond to someone within 1 hour of receiving their ticket, and we aim to resolve all tickets within 3 working days. The 1 hour response time is only during core business hours. Even though we don’t publicly share these SLAs, it’s good for our team to have standards that we strive to hit. This has made our customers trust us since we are accountable and never leave them hanging.
  2. Have one person whose job it is to allocate  and manage all tickets. I have this role on our team. I tend to do a lot of the tickets myself, but I allocate tickets to other team members when it’s busy or if a ticket is related to a particular project they’ve worked on. Even though I might assign a ticket to a colleague, I keep track of all the tickets and follow up with the assignee if they haven’t responded or if I think they’ve provided enough information and can close out the ticket.
  3. Use a friendly and approachable tone in all email communication. You want people to feel comfortable, not stupid, asking questions. The best way to do this is to validate their question. Though it seems obvious, adding in “good question!” to a response can really make people feel heard.
  4. Don’t underestimate phone or in person communication. While sometimes it might feel easier to just have a long back and forth communication with someone, it’s often more efficient to just pick up the phone for clarification. I often call people if I don’t understand their question or go over to their desk to have them show me an error or process they’re trying to complete. Support is all about matching the interaction to the person’s style. If your customer tends to be in lots of meetings and doesn’t have time to read multiple emails, schedule in 15 minutes to go over their question. When I first started in my job, I sat in a different building than all of our users. Once I moved to the building where all the users sat, getting to know them in person helped me to gain their trust and respect.
  5. Treat each ticket as a learning experience.  Though it might be quicker to just create a report for someone, they will have a better Salesforce experience if they feel empowered to create a report themselves. Internal support should be an ongoing series of teachable moments. Getting people to a higher level in Salesforce increases their satisfaction and confidence in the product. They also might not need help the next time since they’re more self-sufficient.
  6. Identify “super users” and create a Salesforce Champions Programme. Through the types of questions they ask and their engagement level with Salesforce, select special colleagues to join a Salesforce Champions Programme. I’ll write a separate post on this, but in relation to support, our champions are the first contact for other people in their departments. They support other Salesforce users on the front lines.
  7. Be empathetic. Even if you can’t totally imagine someone’s frustration, you’ve been in challenging job situations too, and should be able to relate to having one of those days where everything seems broken. So be kind and try to see the question or issue from the requester’s point of view.
  8. Say sorry. As admins, we’ve all had a time when we made changes without properly communicating to all users or overlooked a user experience issue. Admit that you made a mistake and then fix it.
  9. Categorise your tickets. Our categories are Login Issue, Integration/Sync Issue, Permissions, Telephone, Reporting, Dataloader, Feature Request – Quick Fix, Feature Request – Moved to JIRA, User Education, and Other. If someone’s request should actually be a larger project, we have them submit a development work request in JIRA. We still ultimately help them, just on a different timescale.
  10. Ask for help. No one can know the answers to everything. Remember, support is a learning experience for everyone. Get help from your teammates, other teams, the Success Community, or Salesforce Support. You can’t solve it all on your own.

Apex for Admins Training

I work with a lot of developers at my current job and I wanted to understand what custom solutions are possible within Salesforce.

I found this super helpful video that’s from Dreamforce 2013. This session was 2.5 hours and was led by Leah McGowen-Hare, who’s a Master Technical Trainer at Salesforce. She’s really engaging and you don’t need to have any coding skills to generally understand everything she covers.

Even though the trigger they write can now be achieved with the process builder, it’s a great overview of:

  • What is Apex?
  • Where can Apex be developed?
  • Elipse
  • Force.com IDE
  • Classes and methods
  • sObjects
  • SOQL
  • Invoking Apex
  • Triggers

If you have a couple of hours to spare, it’s a good high-level overview of lots of concepts. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, try installing Eclipse and the force.com IDE so that you can practise in your own developer org. Since the students at Dreamforce had everything installed for them, you can get this added learning experience. I didn’t succeed with all the exercises the class was doing, but it was still worthwhile to try.

Check out the course here:

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My Certification Journey

While I was studying for a few certifications, I read a lot of Salesforce blogs, and I found them super helpful. I thought I’d chip in and give some thoughts on certification and the studying that goes with it.

Great bloggers:

Administrator

My boss said we had some extra money in our budget for training and asked if I wanted to take an exam. I said yes and studied for the Admin exam. I had been working with Salesforce for several months at the time. I did the premier training course called Administration Essentials for New Admins. I did all the exercises in a test org. I got to know Rob the admin real well. I think this was one was the hardest for me since I had the least experience at the time, but I passed and that was super cool. I felt really accomplished even though my family had no idea what certifications were.

Force.com Developer

I found the developer exam more logic-based than the Admin one, which seemed more about memorising concepts. For this one, I was lucky enough to take the instructor led course with the amazing Simon Connock in Staines, UK. Simon was a great instructor and we covered pretty much everything on the exam in the 5 day course. I took the exam a couple of weeks after the course, so I wouldn’t forget the material.

Advanced Administrator, Plaform App Builder, Service Cloud Consultant, Sales Cloud Consultant

I got really motivated to take a lot of exams so I studied and took these ones over the course of a couple of months. I followed the same steps to study for all of them:

  • Print out the study guide and read it very closely.
  • Do all of the online courses recommended in the study guide. I was a little OCD with this and took screenshots of all of the slides that I thought were worth reading again. Then I printed out all of my screenshots. You definitely do not have to print everything. I’m really anti-printing in general, but I found annotating with pen and highlighter helpful.
  • Read all of the recommended resources in the study guide. The implementation guides go into a huge amount of detail so I skimmed a lot of these to get the big picture. If you ever implement things later, you can read the guides again in much more detail.
  • If there’s concepts that you don’t feel you really understand, do a google search or find more resources in the help and training on Salesforce.
  • For the Sales Cloud Consultant exam, I found Shell Black’s videos super helpful. He explains sales concepts in a very straightforward way. He does all of his visuals on a whiteboard, which is I found refreshing.
  • Use flashcards on Quizlet to learn key concepts, but take all of these with a grain of salt since they’re not official Salesforce material and are often inaccurate.
  • Study with a friend or colleague, it makes studying more engaging. My friend, Emma, and I studied together while eating ice cream. If you don’t have anyone to study with, find your local Salesforce user group and find a study buddy.
  • Take the exams on a Monday morning (if you work Monday-Friday) so that you can have had the weekend to study and sleep.
  • Imagine yourself passing.
  • Write a nice comment in the feedback before you get before you get your results. I read this on someone’s blog and did it every time after.
  • I passed all of my exams on the first try, which was a relief.
  • David Liu recommended buying yourself a gift as a reward for passing, so I got myself a Danish wooden monkey.

Is it worth it to get certified? 

For me, it’s helped me find jobs, but it’s mostly been good for my confidence. I got my degree in creative writing and didn’t start working in tech until I was a few years out of university. Getting certifications made me feel more “qualified,” even though I probably already was.

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